The Power of His Resurrection
Is there more to being saved than being saved?
This series of three studies takes an overview of the somewhat controversial issue of the ‘Gifts of the Spirit.’ It seeks to show that, whilst cultivation of spiritual fruit is of even greater importance, the supernatural gifts are no less relevant and available to us today than they were to the early church.
- Nb. This study is hypertext-linked to the Bible Gateway. By clicking on the references, you will initially be shown the passage in the New King James Version, with an option to switch to any of a wide range of different languages and translations. You can also browse the surrounding chapters or look for other references if you wish.
- Is there more to being saved than being saved?
- What are the gifts for?
- Fruit versus gifts
- With, In and Upon
- The Streams and the Well
- Were you or are you?
- The divine postman – or, ‘Whose are the gifts?’
- Manifestations and Ministries
- Stirring up the gift
- How are the gifts used?
- To act or not to act?
1.1 Is there more to being saved than being saved?
YES!! Read Phil. 3:7-14. Our relationship with and likeness to Jesus should be growing closer all the time. That is one very important demonstration of ‘the power of his resurrection’ which Paul speaks about in v.10 – the power of God to transform lives (cf. Rom. 8:11). However, if knowing Jesus and being more like him were our only goal as Christians we would be better off in heaven now; where we shall see him face to face (1 Cor. 13:12) and forever be free from the temptation of our sinful natures (1 Cor. 15:42-4,50-4).
But that is not all. Read Rom. 1:1-6. Jesus made it quite clear that there was another side to the power of his resurrection: ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses..’ (Acts 1:8). We should be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses for Jesus.
That poses two very important questions:
- Was the power Jesus referred to just the power to know him better and be more like him?
- Do we automatically receive this power to be witnesses from the Holy Spirit when we are born again?
1.2 What are the Gifts for?
Jesus said, ‘You will will be witnesses to me..’ (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to witness to Jesus (John 15:26-7 & 16:7-15) and the nine gifts listed in 1 Cor 12:8-10 are to confirm that witness (Mark 16:20). These fall into 3 broad categories; although these are not watertight compartments:
- To Declare: Tongues, Interpretation and Prophecy.
- These are gifts enabling spontaneous declaration of the truth.
- To Demonstrate: Healing, Miracles and Faith.
- These gifts demonstrate the power and love of God.
- To Discern: Discerning of Spirits, Knowledge and Wisdom.
- These gifts demonstrate that God is all-knowing.
There are those who claim that such supernatural manifestations were only required initially in order to establish the truth of the apostles’ testimony. Sometimes they will point to 1 Cor. 13:8-10 – ‘But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled … when perfection comes, the imperfect disapears,’ – arguing that the written Word of God is the perfection spoken of. But this not only takes the verse out of context: it takes the middle out of the verse: ‘.. where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes the imperfect disappears.’ Paul goes on in v.12 to make it clear that the perfection he speaks of is not Scripture, but when ‘we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.’
If we read the book of Acts it is clear that, not only the apostles but, even those appointed to ‘wait on tables’ were empowered to do ‘great wonders and signs among the people’ (Acts 6:1-8). In an age of indifference and so many false cults there is a desperate need for a church which truly displays the power of the living God.
1.3 Fruit versus Gifts
The fruit of the Spirit is the result of living by the promptings of the Holy Spirit living within the believer (Gal 5:16-25). Fruit takes time to grow, and its presence is the mark of a mature Christian character. No Christian can afford to be without it.
Gifts of the Spirit are supernatural acts of the Holy Spirit which witness to Jesus by speaking or ministering to a particular need. Jesus made it clear to the disciples that they would need the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in order to witness effectively (Acts 1:4-8). It is equipment for service.
A rookie soldier may have all the latest equipment (gifts): but in most cases I would rather rely on an unarmed SAS man (fruit)! Ideally, though, I want a fully equipped SAS man. We need both fruit and gifts.
1.4 With, In & Upon
To answer the question as to whether we automatically receive this power when we are born again it is helpful to look more closely at what happened to the apostles; in order to see when they themselves were actually born again and whether or not this coincided with the Holy Spirit coming on them. In Rom. 8:9-10
Paul says ‘You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives IN you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.’
It is very difficult to convey the idea of differing degrees and types of relationship with someone who fills everything; but if we pay careful attention to the way in which the three words ‘with’, ‘in’ and ‘on’ are used when speaking about the Holy Spirit, the picture will become much clearer.
- At the last Supper:
‘He abides with you and shall be in you.’ (Jn 14:17).
Before calvary the Holy Spirit was ‘with‘ the disciples, revealing things to them (as he does even to unbelievers (Jn 16:8)) and working with them in their ministry for Jesus. The new birth and indwelling Spirit are unique to the New Covenant (Jer. 32:31-4). This was not in force until Jesus died for us (Heb 9:15-7); so the Spirit could not yet be in them: and by Paul’s definition they were not yet born again.
- Resurrection Evening:
‘He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”‘ (Jn 20:22).
Now, immediately after his resurrection, Jesus tells the disciples to receive the Spirit. He does not say “You will receive ..” or “Be ready to receive ..” This is a ‘here and now’ instruction, marking the moment of their new birth; when the Holy Spirit came to be ‘in‘ them.
- Ascension Day:
‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you..’ (Acts 1:8).
Clearly, this had not yet happened. Equally clearly, it refers to what happened on the day of Pentecost, when the tongues of fire came to rest ‘on‘ each of them and they were ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3-4). Note that this is not a uniquely New Testament experience; there are many examples of the Holy Spirit coming ‘upon‘ Old Testament prophets and heroes. In the Old Testament, however, these were the select few (see Numbers 11:24-9); whereas Joel prophesied that a time would come when this experience would be open to all (Joel 2:28-9). On the day of Pentecost Peter said, ‘This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel’ (Acts 2:16).
1.5 The Streams and the Well
You will probably have noticed that no sooner had the Holy Spirit come ‘on’ the disciples than they were also ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit. It was never God’s intention that the Holy Spirit should come on us, and yet leave us empty on the inside (as sadly was the case with Samson (Judg. 13:1-16:31) and Saul (1 Sam. 19:19-24)).
In John 4:14 Jesus promised those who came to him an inner ‘well of water springing up into everlasting life.’ However, in John 7:38 we have an even better promise: ‘”Whoever believes on me .. streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since
Jesus had not yet been glorified.’
Now you can quite easily keep a well for your own exclusive use: but you cannot keep a stream. When the well starts overflowing, others are going to feel the effects. Every born again believer has that ‘well’ of the Holy Spirit within them: but to reach the world we need ‘streams’ – streams that are flowing continually. A well may be kept full by a tiny seepage of water; but a stream can last only while the water keeps pouring into it.
Thus when the Holy Spirit came on them they were filled; and within minutes there was a major overflow onto the streets of Jerusalem (Acts 2)! But it was then necessary that they should continue being filled, as in Acts 4:29-31. Hence Eph. 5:18, which can literally be rendered as ‘be being filled with the Spirit.’
1.6 Were you or are you?
Scripture makes it clear that the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was not a one-off event, either for the church as a whole or for those who were present on that first day. People who claim to be ‘baptised in the Spirit’ because they ‘spoke with tongues’ at some time in the past but who are not regularly seeking for the Spirit to refill them and empower them as witnesses for Jesus are making a mockery of their claim.
The question each one of us needs to answer is not ‘Have you been filled with the Spirit,’ but, ‘Are you?’